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And the high hills whence all your dearness bubbled, —
THE POINT OF VIEW,
X JE have it on good authority that or even "a struggle” for itself. It is, simply,
Thomas Carlyle once attempted to a “dose," an unmitigated dose. In the most
beguile a convalescence, doubtless authentic-looking report we can get of confrom a bilious attack, with a course of current temporary Britain, it is presented as a scene fiction, which gave rise to reflections tinged from which prompt suicide seems to offer the with the yellow of the malady. Captain most dignified and agreeable escape. EngMarryat was the purveyor of light reading lish life is of course not the utter failure that recommended to the bilious sage, and he be- it is here represented. Contrariwise, it is a wailed the time that he had been beguiled into success to the extent and for the reason to and spending upon “dogs with their tails cut off, for which Horace Greeley claimed success for and people in search of their fathers.” one of his lectures:—“More stayed in than
The modern philosopher or philosophaster, went out.” But the question recurs with not being in his normal condition at all ad- urgency why it should be painted in such dicted to “best sellers,” who for any reason gloomy colors by the most artistic of its has prescribed to him, or prescribes to himself, delineators. a course of "light reading,” has his difficulties Much is doubtless to be allowed for what with his authors as the sage with "that person may be called an era of transition; for the feel
who was once a captain of the Royal ing of spiritual homelessness which, if not The New ovelist Navy, and a very extraordinary or- peculiar to Great Britain, but common, more
nament he must have been to it." or less, to all the modern world, is accomWhat strikes him about the novelists now panied in Great Britain more than elsewhere most in vogue among critical readers, is by no by the shifting of landmarks, the transformameans their imbecility. Far indeed from that. tion or disappearance of immemorial instituIt is the very gloomy view they take of life. tions. The feeling itself is no more novel than Mr. Hardy has now become a survivor of a it is local or national. “In Memoriam” is former generation of novelists, among whom over sixty years of age, and Clough's less his sense of the excess of the tragic over the popular but not less symptomatic questionings comic elements in human life and destiny was not much younger. Yet the novelists contemas noteworthy as his other gifts. The "happy- porary with these poets by no means anticipated ending" was by no means so much a necessary the dejection of the novelists of the period, element to him as to the easier-going of his half a century later, which unfortunately has fellow-craftsmen. We even find him in one of no poets of its own at all. Something there his earlier novels signalizing "the increasing may be in the sense of comparative national difficulty of revelling in the general situation." failure, since, great and world-wide a fact as He is by no means among the optimists. But the British Empire is, and talking much more his philosophy of life is a cheerful and jocund about its “Imperialism” than it was half a inculcation when it is confronted with that of century ago, there is no denying that it is not those among the present purveyors of British altogether the overwhelming and incomparable fiction who are most distinguished for intel- fact that it was then. This may well be one lectual insight and technical skill. Mr. Hardy of the reasons that make the contemporary is a Pangloss compared with these. That British novelist feel, as one of him has described terrible sentence of Swift's, “happiness is a it, that he is the son of a time between two perpetual possession of being well deceived,” ages.” But it seems also that the new British might be the motto of all their works. Life is novelist has betaken himself to France for his not, in their pages, "a battle and a march," point of view as well as for his technique and
his liberty. His enfranchisement, indeed, is pose to undermine our happiness. It was a
A thousand bulbs cost less than fifty cigars.''
Somewhat dazed I read the last sentence again.
we have found a fairly good working “A thousand bulbs cost less than fifty cigars!” theory; but the possibility of a domestic cata- It certainly was a facer, but so slow are my clysm has more than once lain in a smaller wits in such domestic emergencies that the cavity than the bowl of a corn-cob pipe. This perfectly obvious rejoinder which this incredis how it all came about:
ible statement invited did not occur to me, in It was last spring when the serpent entered the exact phraseology which would have made the Garden of Eden which Belinda and I had my words most crushingly effective, until the planted so carefully and tended so assiduously next morning when I was spraying the young
through many years. With charac- hollyhock leaves with Bordeaux mixture; and The Story of a
Bulbs teristic craftiness he came in a guise my pride as well as my sense of humor told me
that would have given him a wel- that it was then too late. come entrance into any household-as a big, I did not give up smoking as a result of this handsome book, masking, in pictures of encounter, but I did change my cigars to a flower gardens and in graceful descriptions less expensive brand, a concession which the of the delights of country life, his malign pur- logic of the situation seemed to demand. At
the same time I thought it wise to supplant, if west. Then my humiliation will be complete possible, the impression left in Belinda's mind —thanks to the Poet's Narcissus, of which "a by that mischievous legend under the picture thousand bulbs cost less than fifty cigars!” of Poet's Narcissus, and to this end I blithely handed her one evening “My Lady Nicotine," asking her to look it over at her leisure. The JO, I don't mean the cat, the fireside selection was unfortunate. Indeed, I could sphinx which has been so happily exnot, as it turned out, have made a greater
ploited by Miss Repplier and others. blunder. Many years had passed since I had I mean Bridget, or Hilda, or Chloe—the person read Barrie's delightful book, and I remem- who cooks our meals, waits on our tables, bered it vaguely as devoted to the glorification comes in and out of our bed-chambers, presides of smoking. After glancing over a few pages over our nurseries, knows our secrets and keeps Belinda's face lighted up, and with the eager her own. She sees us where we live our lives. words, “Listen to this!" she read: “If men We see her only where she does her work. would only consider that every cigar they And yet, time was when we knew (or did we smoke would buy part of a piano-stool in terra- only fancy that we knew?) something of the cotta plush, and that for every pound tin of heart that beat behind the snowy bib, tobacco purchased, away goes a vase for grow- of the brain that worked underneath
ooth The Sphinx in ing dead geraniums in, they would surely the immaculate cap. That time is hesitate."
past, even though one may find here and there Now Belinda can see the point of a joke, but a warm-hearted Irish woman or old-fashioned the absorbing nature of the economic question negro mammy. involved in our controversy left her blind for Doubtless this is partly our own fault, for we the moment to the humorous significance of are not greatly interested in the private affairs that inspired phrase in the last clause she had of our servants, having many other things to read, in which the author so deftly turns upside think of. But it sometimes seems as though down the argument that his words seem at first they guarded themselves as jealously from our to convey. Rather than risk overtaxing her interest as from our indifference; and so it reasoning faculty on this point, it was far easier comes about that, while we are of course aware to admit, with a more or less forced laugh, that that their point of view is different from ours, she had scored again. Cowardly and con- we are hardly apt to realize their actual attidescendingly masculine, do you say? I plead tude. Take, for instance, your good nurse guilty to both counts in the indictment. But who is so devoted to your children, and seems you know in your heart of hearts, if you are a —and perhaps is-so attached to yourself. man, that you would have done the same. In the intimacy of the nursery she learns to
As must always be the case, a compromise know you well. You fancy, too, that you know was the outcome of this awkward situation, her. You are sure that you know her disposiBelinda cutting down her order from fifty to tion, and very likely she has told you many thirty packages of flower seeds, and I finally details of her past life, and it does not occur to giving up, with a modicum of regret, even Con- you that there is very much more to learn." necticut cigars for a pipe. I began with a But one day it happens that in her presence a briarwood which, after a few weeks, by a sup- chance allusion is made to some detail of the plementary clause to our original treaty, was labor question, perhaps to a strike in which left in the shed over nights. What the next she has no personal interest, and where the step may be is in the hands of fate. A news- exactions of the strikers are so unreasonable paper paragraph some time ago referred to the that it never occurs to you that any intelligent curious fact that five near-by towns in Missouri working woman will not see the matter senpossessed a monopoly of the manufacture of sibly—that is, as you see it yourself. Watch corn-cob pipes, of which they make many mill- her face as it hardens, becomes antagonistic, ions every year, for distribution all over the and, above all, secretive. You have a sudden world. If the price of flower seeds continues cold feeling that you and she are on opposite to increase, and if Belinda's garden ambition sides of a gulf. grows apace, I can foresee the awful possibility with regard to the confidences of our serthat I may even be forced to become a patron vants and the tales which they tell us of their of this Missouri industry in one of the by- families and their early lives, sympathetic products of the vast corn fields of the South- though we may be by instinct, long experience
has developed in us an attitude of incredulity. from one of the lower rooms. She hastened to For, poor dears, they love to romance. Why investigate, and came upon a much embarshould we wonder at it? It is thus that they rassed young butler. grope for a foothold on the eminence where we “I beg your pardon, ma'am,” he said. “I'd stand. Also, it amuses them and gratifies the never have done it if I'd known you were in." creative instinct. If they haven't inventive I n reply to her anxious questions he exgenius enough for anything else, they can at plained:“Why, you see, ma'am, I have to keep least tell us that they are only doing our work so still all day that I feel like I should go crazy, in order to “educate” a small brother or sister. and so when the family are all out I just make That, to our knowledge, their wages go on a noise and feel better." their backs does not, to their minds, invalidate There are persons who think that we shall the tale.
solve our servant question by reducing it to a As for the man-servant, who shall tell what purely business basis, as impersonal as the rethoughts are his? When you think of it, what lations between factory hand and factory is more remarkable than the self-control of the owner, but this seems impossible, for in the excellent man-servant? Most remarkable, of house so much living has to be mixed with the course, when he is young and when some outlet business. In the nature of the case the relafor animal spirits and physical energy seems a tion must be personal, at least in the average vital necessity. This youth who moves about household, for it has to do with our most intiyour house with noiseless footfall, low, re- mate life, and involves in the day's work many strained voice, and deferential manner is hold- unexpected situations requiring a certain ing down every natural impulse. That there amount of consultation between mistress and should be a reaction seems almost inevitable, servant. Then, too, there must be a spurt of and we can hardly be surprised at any form work at one time, offset by unusual leisure at that it may take. Probably it is not often so another. In short, the average housekeeping harmless as in a case which I heard of lately. cannot be machine-made. To my thinking A lady, a guest in the house of some friends, this is fortunate, as preserving the individuality was one evening prevented by sudden indis- of the laborer and promoting human relations position from accompanying her hosts to an between employer and employee. Yet, at entertainment, and remained in her room. In best, it is a one-sided relation. To my serthe course of the evening she was alarmed by vant I am an open book. To me my servant hearing loud howls and shrieks proceeding is a sphinx.